Monday, August 20, 2012

Bobby Jindal's Legislative Lap Dogs

Carrying Water for Jindal

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
Published in the Hammond, Louisiana, Daily Star,
Thibodaux Daily Comet, and The Houma Courier
(Shorter version in several newspapers as a letter.)

Mon., Aug. 20, 2012 / 700 words

The Louisiana Legislature passed a host of new education laws this summer. Most of these measures are currently being litigated with many more lawsuits to come as citizens of this state realize that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education “reform” programs are not only unconstitutional but flawed in every conceivable way possible.

Hardly a week passes without a new scandal: a voucher school being led not only by a former state representative but a self-proclaimed prophet and apostle, a Delhi-based charter school that loves state money but not pregnant students, BESE’s corrupt “walking quorums,” the use of wacky Creationist textbooks that are now a national laughingstock, and Monroe News-Star’s planned lawsuit against State Superintendent of Education John White over his refusal to make available requested charter-voucher program documents.

This obvious catastrophe is Gov. Jindal’s greatest achievement. Unfortunately, we’ll be decades fixing his K-12 “reform” project.

Jindal’s wholesale attack on Louisiana teachers, higher education institutions, public school students, and public hospitals would not be complete without his signature retirement reform legislation. For the good of Louisiana, he began to lose interest in the legislative session after winning his big education “reform” battles. One state retirement bill, HB 61, did pass.

I refer to this as the “Cat Food” Retirement Plan because many future state workers will be lucky to afford generic cat food for dinner in their retirement years. Fans of the program call it the “Cash Balance Plan.”

The plan helps Jindal begin to move all state pension funds closer to privatization like the state health insurance programs, and it enables him to have a concrete accomplishment to tout for national GOP office.

However, without Social Security benefits, which state employees are not allowed to contribute into nor earn, he has made Louisiana public employment the worst place to work of any state or federal agency in America. The “Cat Food” Retirement Plan begins on July 1, 2013, for new hires.

There are serious questions about whether the plan will cause massive IRS tax penalties on employee investments and whether some of the state workforce could be required to begin paying into Social Security, which is not part of the “Cat Food” Retirement Plan and will cost Louisiana taxpayers even more money. Rather than waiting for a determination by the feds, Jindal is pressing on with the plan according to an Aug. 10 Advocate report.

In a heroic effort, the Retired State Employees Association has filed suit over HB 61 (Act 483). Why? Not because the “Cat Food” bill is in and of itself unconstitutional, but because the bill costs the state tax money. Such bills require a 2/3s supermajority vote, and Jindal’s most faithful water boy, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles), allowed the bill to “pass” without the 70 votes required by law. Indeed, the actuarial report on HB 61 is clear. The new plan will create an unfunded accrued liability, and it will cost the state more than the current Defined Benefit Plan.

Does the Louisiana Legislature actually violate the constitution in order to please Bobby Jindal?

Only on certain days that end in a “y.” Unless unconstitutional laws are challenged by citizens, smoke-filled room politics will not be stopped. An unconstitutional law remains a Louisiana law unless challenged and defeated in a courtroom. Unfortunately, these challenges are far too rare.

Why was the retirement legislation needed? To protect the state retirement systems and save money, the backers said. However, the very opposite occurred. The new plan will cost the state more money than the old plan.

It should be noted that the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System was recently named a top 10 performing state pension in the country based on 10-year investment returns.

As political commentator C.B. Forgotson says, Louisiana should adopt a new state motto: “If it ain’t broke, break it; if it’s broke, leave it alone.”

When will our legislators stand up and tell our absentee governor that they’re done carrying water for his national political agenda?

I hope sooner rather than later.
Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Bobby, Can You Hear Me in the Bunker?

By Dayne Sherman
Talk About the South Column
Published in the Hammond, Louisiana, Daily Star, 4A-5A
Sat., Aug. 18, 2012 / 850 words
Revised edition

Dear Bobby,

I hate to break the bad news. No, it’s not about Gov. Mitt Romney having the good sense not to pick you as VP, nor that you weren’t even on his shortlist of candidates, nor that you didn’t land a prime speaking spot at the RNC in Tampa. The bad news is something a conservative activist told me the other day. On Aug. 12 your political career ended.

Yes, not becoming Romney’s VP was the end of your political ascendancy. Blame Romney or blame yourself, but it’s caput.

Maybe you’ve already figured it out. Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press ran a story with the word “bunker” in the title regarding your administration’s activities right now. Do your handlers let you read the newspaper in the bunker? I hope you have cable TV and can get ESPN, air-conditioning, too. But you need some reality therapy in a bad way.

A week ago The Dead Pelican website ran an unscientific poll. I suspect the readers are mostly conservatives. Did they let you see it in the bunker?

The poll asked a single question: “Will Bobby Jindal continue to be a rising star on the national stage, now that Paul Ryan has been picked for V.P.?”

Out of 1,079 votes cast, 68 % of the respondents said either “No” or “Who is Bobby Jindal?” Only 32 % said that your star will continue to rise.

Oh, my!

I think folks are catching on, conservatives especially. One Republican media figure recently said to me, “Dayne, I believe Bobby Jindal is going to kill the Louisiana Republican Party.” He wasn’t happy in the least.

The problem, though, is how sad a moral specimen you’ve become, an empty suit, a nihilist with only one belief left. 

John Maginnis, the dean of Louisiana political columnists, opined that perhaps being present at the college exorcism and writing candidly about it may have been your very last unscripted act.

Bobby, you only believe in yourself. Can’t you see it?

I suspect you don’t have a friend in the world to tell you the truth about anything important. 

And how does it feel to be used by Romney? According to reports, he didn’t even call you to say he was sorry for picking Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). He called five other shortlisters but not you. He picked Ryan, a man with a single hero: Ayn Rand. Rand is a writer Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners calls “a philandering Russian atheist.” But at least Rand and Ryan have an ethos. A horrible ethos but an ethos nevertheless. An ethos is something very similar to an ethic or sense of morality, and a way of life in a community.

Bobby, you don’t have an ethos. There’s some interesting dialogue in The Big Lebowski, a great movie about friendship. You should watch it posthaste, and pay close attention to the "ethos" dialogue between The Dude, Walter, and Danny. Nihilism is bad, in part, because it leaves you friendless. Who cares to be a buddy to a nihilist? It escapes me. But if you had an honest friend, he might tell you the truth: you’re a caricature of the worst sort of politician on the make, and it has gotten old to Louisianans. You’ve sold your soul for personal political advancement, and everyone seems to know it but you.

Have you heard there is a giant sinkhole in Bayou Corne? Some say the thing could blow up like a nuclear bomb, a genuine apocalypse that’ll make Hurricane Katrina look like an afternoon shower. Why haven’t you been there with the press? Are you scared of the possible explosion or that no one will show up but sycophantic staffers with their iPhones to take photos, a press conference with no press? It’s not because the press won’t show out of fear, but that you’re no longer important enough to waste the drive.

Hey, out of our longstanding friendship, I’ll go if you go. Call me the press. I’ll write about it.

Bobby, we are a resilient people here in Louisiana. We have fought off hurricanes, levee failures, water moccasins, Yellow Fever, Reconstruction, a host of carpetbaggers and scallywags, and the Civil War, not to mention more bad governors and corrupt politicians than a country boy can shoot in the butt with a Daisy BB gun. We’ll survive your reign, especially now that your power is quickly diminishing. Thank God for the Law of Gravity.

So why not come on back to earth, Bobby? Your career is all downhill from here on out. Realizing this, however, may be the only thing that saves you from yourself. Read the late Catholic novelist Dr. Walker Percy. I think his writings will offer a diagnosis for what is really at stake in your downward slide.

Reading Percy and surrounding yourself with some honest folks won’t save your career, but it could help save your soul.

Come on over to my place. I’ll brew a fresh pot of coffee. We can have a long talk. There’s life outside the bunker. Isn’t it about time you try to leave lockdown and go out into the sunshine?

It’s not nearly as bad as you think.

Your pal,



Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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***This message speaks only for the writer, a citizen, not for any present or past employer.***